HC Deb 03 June 1997 vol 295 cc179-80
30. Mrs. Ann Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on current levels of investment in the trunk road and motorway systems. [475]

The Minister of Transport (Dr. Gavin Strang)

Provision for investment in improvement and maintenance of the trunk roads network in England for 1997–98 is some £1,491 million net. We are, however, committed to carrying out a strategic review of the trunk roads programme.

Mrs. Winterton

In view of the importance of road infrastructure investment, especially to a strong and growing economy inherited from the previous Government, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that spending pledges made before 1 May will be honoured? Will he reassure my constituents in Cheshire and people elsewhere that the widening of the M6 will go ahead as planned on time?

Dr. Strang

I am a little surprised at the hon. Lady's remarks. She was a supporter of a Government who massively cut the roads programme, not on the basis of an objective analysis of the relative merits of various schemes but on the basis of a need simply to cut public expenditure. I assure her that we shall adopt a much more balanced approach to those matters. We shall take into account a range of factors and we shall certainly stand by all the pledges that we gave during the general election campaign.

Mr. Kidney

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite what the hon. Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) said, many people are opposed to the widening of the M6, not only on environmental grounds but on strategic ones relating to the road network, especially around the north of Birmingham? Is my right hon. Friend also aware that, while the outcome of the discussions is awaited, the money spent on widening the M6 could be more usefully spent on modernising the west coast main line, which is next to the M6?

Dr. Strang

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. Those are important decisions and I can assure him that we shall be taking into account accessibility, safety, economy and, as he said, perhaps above all, the environmental impact.

Mr. Key

I must acknowledge in all fairness that these are early days, but will the Minister give us some flavour of his own thinking on the possibility of urban and inter-urban motorway and trunk road pricing as a way of securing investment?

Dr. Strang

The hon. Gentleman will accept that, in the first instance, we have to carry out a fundamental review of the roads programme. Of course, when it comes to spending on roads, and especially public transport as we are determined to have an integrated transport policy, we shall have to examine a range of issues.

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